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The "historian's note" for Mortal Fear tells us that the story takes place during Buffy's sixth season. However, not for the first time, Pocket Books have managed to screw up the apparently obvious task of placing a novel into the correct season, as it actually takes place during season seven (Tara is dead and Buffy is working at the rebuilt Sunnydale High).
Another thing that we've all seen before is the idea of Buffy against the rest of the Scoobies, as Dawn, Willow and Xander all turn against her.
Of course, there's something supernatural behind it, as confirmed by the tag line on the cover ("a new Big Bad has turned the Slayer against her friends...and sister!"). However, Buffy also has to deal with a potential new ally, the mysterious Simon who tips her off about potential demon attacks. But is Simon a good guy or is he actually behind the attacks?
Apart from Simon's warnings, the attacks have other things in common - the demons all have three things about them and when they're killed, they form parts of a magical sword that threatens to bring about the end of the world.
While Buffy tries to balance her role as the Slayer with her new counselling job, Dawn, Willow and Xander are undergoing some lifestyle changes of their own. Dawn has hooked up with a bad crowd at school, Willow has to deal with an annoying T.A. at UC Sunnydale and Xander has a hot new client to impress.
There's some fun to be had with some of these scenarios, such as Willow's instant message problems in her computer class. Having characters acting in this fashion is also a handy way for the authors not to have to bother nailing down the characterisation, although it hardly needs a Big Bad for Dawn to act like an annoying brat.
Mortal Fear clocks in at a door-stopping 479 pages, but a fair chunk of this seemed like padding. As we've come to expect from a Buffy novel there are plenty of pop culture references, but as usual these prove more irritating than anything else. The authors also spend far too much time telling us what each character is wearing, particularly when this isn't really relevant.
The result is a story that felt overlong, and although relatively easy to read, I still found myself getting rather bored. A rather average read, but one that was still miles better than the last Buffy novel I read, Chaos Bleeds. BACK TO THE TOP